While Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids may offer the benefit of affordability, they often do not provide optimal sound quality or fit for all users. Despite their limitations, OTC hearing devices are becoming increasingly popular as a more affordable alternative to traditional hearing aids. Clinicians are likely to see more and more individuals presenting to their office with existing OTC devices or an interest in these devices. Educating patients on these devices' limitations can be challenging, but providing quantitative data on their performance can help demonstrate their appropriateness for each patient.
With the recent FDA ruling that OTC hearing devices can be used without a medical exam; it is important that clinicians have a baseline of knowledge about these devices so they can ensure their patients – new and old – are properly educated on the use of OTC devices. These devices are approved for individuals over the age of 18 with mild to moderate hearing loss in the absence of other symptoms like dizziness, ear drainage, ear pain, visible deformity of the ear, sudden or fluctuating hearing loss, unilateral or asymmetric hearing loss, and tinnitus in one or both ears. It should be noted that although these devices are approved for those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, they do not require a hearing exam and, thus, rely on individual perception of hearing difficulty.